What is the tone of "Harrison Bergeron"?
The tone in "Harrison Bergeron" is casual, sarcastic, and even irreverent.
Vonnegut tells us that everyone is "finally equal" in 2081. Yet, no one has figured out a way to control or affect the weather. The author's candid and sarcastic tone reflects his disdain for the United States' misguided campaign of equality.
Vonnegut's description of Hazel and George further exemplifies his sarcastic and irreverent tone:
Hazel had a perfectly average intelligence, which meant she couldn't think about anything except in short bursts. And George, while his intelligence was way above normal, had a little mental handicap radio in his ear... Every twenty seconds or so, the transmitter would send out some sharp noise to keep people like George from taking unfair advantage of their brains.
Here, the author's tone reinforces his contempt for the kind of equality that is fostered through a system of oppression and persecution.
Later in the story, Hazel proclaims that she would replace the excruciatingly jarring sounds in George's ear radio with the sound of chimes if she was the Handicapper General:
If I was Diana Moon Glampers," said Hazel, I'd have chimes on Sunday-just chimes. Kind of in honor of religion.
"I could think, if it was just chimes," said George.
George agrees with his wife. Vonnegut's farcical tone reinforces the ludicrous nature of Hazel and George's conversation. The people in America in 2081 appear to enjoy less freedoms than those from earlier centuries. Yet, Hazel and George (by way of their handicaps) fail to recognize this. Both are focused on the superficial (chimes versus dissonant sounds in ear radios), rather than the stark reality before them (the loss of democratic freedoms they once enjoyed).
Vonnegut's sarcastic and irreverent tone throughout the story demonstrates his contempt for the idea that equality can be legislated with any sort of credibility or efficacy.